Water Authority challenges FCT on water claim
The state-owned Barbados Water Authority (BWA) today painted a top official of the Future Centre Trust (FCT) as a scaremonger, as he challenged statements made by the official regarding the quality of the local drinking water.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY Thursday, Advocacy Director of the Trust Kammie Holder questioned the official position of health authorities, who have denied any link between the current spate of premature deaths and the island’s drinking water, instead associating the deaths to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and Barbadians’ lifestyle.
“Nobody tests for hydrocarbons on the roadside in Barbados . . . nobody tests for the nitrogen dioxides on the streets of Barbados, and I know there are many water soluble chemicals that probably could be within our water. But who test for those?
“I’m saying the time is right where we need to also now look at what we’re testing for in our water and look at increasing the number of things we test for. The jury is out on what is causing so many people to come down with serious ailments,” Holder said Thursday.
In a stinging response today, BWA General Manager Dr John Mwansa described the comments as alarmist and said the conclusion was not based on facts and should be withdrawn.
He also reiterated the measures taken by the water company to monitor water quality.
Mwansa told Barbados TODAY that in addition to a monthly chemical water quality monitoring programme, widescreen water samples are done on a quarterly basis.
He said widescreen water samples looked at the parameters that the agency monitors on a regular basis .
“They would also look at other parameters that we don’t monitor for regularly, that the lab is capable of analyzing for. It is out of the widescreen analysis that we are able to determine, for example, if there are any new additional parameters that we should be looking at or not, based on their concentration and the risks that are associated with them . . . if we find them in the water.
“The widescreen sampling that we have done and the monthly monitoring programme that we have done, which includes testing for hydrocarbons, has indicated that there are no threats to our water supply. So the statement that has been made is an irresponsible statement, which I trust the Future Centre Trust would be able to withdraw because it is not based on fact. It is alarmist and serves no purpose,” the BWA General Manager said.
In an effort to clear the air today, Holder told Barbados TODAY: “At no time did I say that the water is responsible for NCDs or the spate of sudden deaths. No scientific or anecdotal evidence suggest such. What was said is that the number of contaminants tested for should be increased. I further stated that nitrogen dioxide, hydrocarbons, sulphur dioxide and other water soluble pollutants found in vehicle exhaust should be tested for.
“It was also highlighted that diesel exhaust has been linked to diabetes as an NCD, thus it’s ludicrous to insinuate that water is giving persons NCDs and there is a link to the sudden deaths, which I publicly dismissed as rubbish when the gossip mill first started with this malicious rumour.”
When contacted today, Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Anton Best said the Ministry of Health had already said there was no marked increase in the number of deaths happening due to chronic diseases and there was no cause for alarm.
“There is no public threat out there; it is not an infectious disease and it is not linked to water,” Dr Best stressed.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth George has explained that NCDs were responsible for the 24 sudden deaths between late January and mid-June. There were 21 such deaths during the corresponding period last year, he said.
Regional health expert Dr Tomo Kanda has also said the spate of sudden deaths was not unique to Barbados, as other Caribbean Community countries suffered from similar high rates of the lifestyle illnesses that lead to premature deaths.